We travel back in time today, to marvel at the architectural wonders created in the 12th – 16th centuries. Our first stop is the lovely village of Tomar, with its appealing streets and main square. This is a coffee stop before we tackle the Convento de Cristo, which sits above the town.
The Convento de Cristo is truly amazing. It was the headquarters of the Knights Templar, and was founded in 1160 by the Grand Master of the time, Gualdim Pais. Subsequent monarchs and Grand Masters added their own chapels and cloisters. The castle and convent were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, and restoration work is still being carried out. We spend a good hour and a half marvelling at this amazing series of buildings:
Phew, what magnificence. Somewhat overwhelmed we then drive on to the small town of Batalha in order to visit the Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria. We drive into this little town, and bam, there is this amazing monastery just sitting in the middle of the town square:
But first we have to attend to our more pressing need for sustenance. We find Churrasqeira Vitoria just near the roundabout ( thank you for the recommendation Lonely Planet), and enjoy a terrific half grilled chicken, chips and salad each. Simple food, well cooked. No pictures of the food as we were so hungry we fell on it as soon as it hit the table! Much to our amusement, the owner has an Uncle living in Adelaide.
Replete we can now tackle the Monastery. The stone carvings in this building are exquisite – it is difficult to realise they are in fact carved from stone, so intricate and delicate they look. The sun streaming in the stained glass windows create pastel patterns on the simple stone walls. Beautiful.
The monastery took well over a century to build, starting in 1386 and ending around 1517. In fact, it was never completed and the Unfinished Chapels ( or, Capelas Imperfeitas) are almost the most beautiful – open to the sky, the unfinished spires dominate over intricate carved work and the touching tombs of King Edward of Portugal and his Queen, Eleanor of Aragon.
The church and monastery fell into ruins when it was abandoned in 1834, but King Ferninand II of Portugal started restoration work in 1840 – work that continued into the 20th century. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1983.
From the sublime of Batalha we went to the ridiculous of the beach side town of Nazare. Fancying a drink beachside before we returned to Casa D’Obidos we thought Nazare sounded pleasant. Wrong – touristy seaside town (they are the same the world over, aren’t they – tacky). We chose a modern bar right on the beach. We were served by a completely disinterested young man, and the rose that Hazel & I ordered was undrinkable.
So, we did not linger long – rather, drove to Obidos and found a little shop open that sold us a cold half bottle of white ( the boys had cold beers already back at the Casa) and a packet of crisps, and we went back to the ranch to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace before walking out to dinner. This time we chose the first, unnamed Snack Bar – which is actually recommended in Lonely Planet. Very cheap, and oh so fresh grilled fish. Very good.